Sunday, June 12, 2011

A delightful machine

Last Sunday I had my first experience with a wood-splitter, and loved it.

If you're never seen one, these machines (also "log-splitters") are small, hydraulic monsters.  That have three parts:

  1. A metal track, horizontal.
  2. A gas-burning engine, like a lawnmower's, mounted at one end.
  3. An iron wedge, mounted at the opposite end.

Users stick a piece of wood onto the metal track, then throw a switch on the engine.  The engine pushes a simple slab of metal down the track, shoving the wood chunk forward, until it connected with the wedge.  Then the engine keeps shoving, ruthlessly,  with industrial might, until the log splits across the wedge's blade.  The engine then quietly retracts the shover plate, or the user throws another switch to make that happen, and the thing is ready for the next.

I started using this gloriously satisfying machine with the help of a small group of town locals.  This group is a volunteer effort, devoted to accumulating stove wood for Riptonites who can't afford their own, come our long, intense winter.  From time to time during the year REAP meets to cut or stack wood, growing a supply against the recession.  People pitch in as their schedules and abilities allow.  There's no hierarchy; each contributes what they can.

I contributed mesmerized attention and gleeful muscle power last Sunday.  It was a rush to see the splitter bisect or trisect vast, tough pieces of wood.  I tried to imagine with what delight woodsmen must have viewed these machines a century ago.  Nice example of Clarke's law, probably.  Two hours went by quickly, as I heaved bigger and bigger chunks of wood into the unprotesting machine's metal maw.  My REAP colleagues chainsawed giant trees, dragged logs around, and quickly stacked the small pieces as they toppled from my new friend's gleaming iron wedge, the wood splitter.

No comments: